Your data, your rights: proactive steps for personal data protection

Safer Internet Day 2024 comes amid data fears about limited access imposed on various popular apps, causing users to circumvent the new rules by downloading replacements. In an era where vast amounts of data is constantly being collected and analyzed, the risks of data breaches, identity theft, and invasions of privacy are more pronounced than ever. So, on February 6 – the day recognized annually as a vital reminder of the importance of safeguarding personal information in our digitized world – Kaspersky’s experts are emphasizing the critical need for users to be proactive about their data security.

In 2023, debates were sparked in several countries regarding the restriction of certain popular apps in Brazil, Ireland and Japan. In the USA deliberations on restricting access to TikTok resulted in limitations of the Chinese app on government-issued devices in more than half of the states. But customers are not always willing to give up their favorite apps when it comes to popular services. Facing prohibitions, users resorted to alternative means of accessing content, such as installing replacement apps or bootlegged copies. 

The imitation downloads used by those trying to evade the restrictions are often poorly developed, with nebulous privacy policies or they violate users’ rights altogether. Additionally, many of these applications tend to disappear after a while for various reasons such as insufficient numbers of users, which means sensitive data might end up in the hands of third parties.

To avoid such unpleasant scenarios, Kaspersky experts are sharing several tips:

1. There is no need to rush when it comes to installing anything on your devices

Discussions regarding any limitations on an app do not necessarily lead to its prohibition. Rushing to find an alternative may mean you are putting your information at risk, as these types of apps or pirated copies of services may not care enough about the safety of users’ personal data. Before installing anything unverified on any devices, it’s always worth to weigh out the pros and cons. Official app stores always remain the best and safest option.       

2. It’s always a good idea to learn about your privacy rights

A good place to start is to learn more about your country’s legislation governing customer rights and the processing of personal data. For instance, in Great Britain it’s called The Data Protection Act, which can also be found as a summary for quick familiarization. Then, when reading the privacy policy of the app, it’s important to check if they are respecting users’ rights and whether they are collecting only the data that they are entitled to. Also make sure it’s possible to contact customer services and ask them to delete personal information.

3. Data oversharing is not a safe option  

It’s always better to minimize the amount of data an app collects about you as there’s a risk of inadvertent disclosure or misuse of personal data due to insufficient data security measures. Moreover, once personal data is shared, it’s often difficult to control its distribution and use, potentially leading to long-term privacy issues. To prevent such issues, consider limiting the access to the photo feed, contacts, and location to the apps that can function without it. This also applies to the microphone: limited access will ensure applications don’t collect personal data while overhearing what you say.

4. Modern security solutions can keep personal data safe online

Modern security solutions can block apps from accessing personal information, alert users if their phone numbers and other data have been leaked and warn them if a malicious file has been downloaded. There are also services that help to improve the security of personal data by following simple instructions.

“Restricting popular apps have become a more frequent practice then it used to be. Users looking for a replacement do not always get a quality app with a transparent privacy policy. Knowing users’ rights and paying attention to who and how the app collects data can help prevent personal information from falling into the wrong hands,” comments Anna Larkina, web content analysis expert.

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